Gambling for growth or settling for survival: the dilemma of the small business adviser

Kevin Mole (Centre for Interdisciplinary Strategic Management Research, Middlesex University Business School, The Burroughs, Hendon, London, UK)

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

ISSN: 1462-6004

Publication date: 1 December 2000


The paper questions aspects of the UK government’s policy to target small firm support on fast‐growing firms – to maximise its employment impact. The paper explores the tension between advice likely to increase growth and risk‐taking and advice likely to ensure firm survival in the turbulent small and medium‐sized enterprises sector. The research data derive from 24 semi‐structured interviews and a group interview of ten business advisers in the West Midlands region collected between autumn 1996 and spring 1997, and a national survey of 175 Business Link personal business advisers (PBAs) conducted in April 1998. Interviewees responded to a prompt asking for advice to a fast‐growing firm. The paper compares qualitative interview responses from a wide variety of West Midlands business advisers with questionnaire responses from PBAs. The paper suggests that the advice given by accountants and bank managers differs little from that given by Business Link’s PBAs. The paper will argue that advisers including PBAs, offer risk‐averse advice and support to small firms. Present business advice might reduce insolvency rather than increase the number of fast‐growth firms. The risk‐averse nature of advice, reflecting the adviser’s clientele, undermines policies designed to increase the number of fast‐growth companies. It concludes that advice will often be inconsistent with the growth‐oriented aim of government policy.



Mole, K. (2000), "Gambling for growth or settling for survival: the dilemma of the small business adviser", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 305-314.

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Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

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